Director’s Story

A collage of photos of dancers and dancers.

Folks ask me, how Hernan and I met and landed here in Greenville. So, I thought I would layout the story and share some pictures to get to know us a little better.

Here is a synopsis of our journey to beautiful Greenville and how we started our vision in dance.

My husband is Argentine. If you google stereotypes of Argentineans, you get my husband. I mean it in the best way “I know I’m biased, but…” if you have time to talk with him, he is pretty amazing.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Hernan was bit-by-the dance bug at age 8, when his mom took him to see Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain. In his formative years, deep impressions stuck growing up in the halls of the opera house Teatro Colón. Memories like Maya Plisetskaya entering from the wings as the possessed Black Swan, or the hundred of hours casted as an extra in over 30 operas with the sounds of opera legends Luciano Pavarotti and Victoria de los Angeles, laid the foundation for his sense of production, artistry and the power of storytelling.

After graduating from Argentina’s national ballet school, he spent a decade in several professional ballet companies throughout South America building a large classical ballet resume and diverse contemporary works. He met a Hungarian ballet teacher, Gyula Pandi, who helped him set up auditions for ballet companies in the United States. That’s when our eyes first met. But more on this first sight in a moment…

My home was Columbia, Maryland and my amazing mom would drive me 30 miles into the Washington, D.C. to the Washington School of Ballet to train. After 8 years in the school, I joined the professional company and grew up in international tours to Russia, Spain and France among others. Young budding choreographers such as Alonzo King were commissioned and I was wrapped in a blanket of Mr. King’s words of wisdom like, “The purpose of art is higher than art. What we are really interested in are masterpieces of humanity.” This made me think of why I choose to be a dancer. What was my mission?

In D.C., a tall, handsome, dark-haired dancer was auditioning for Washington Ballet and I remember Hernan very well. That first impression stayed between us until we met again as  rookies at North Carolina Dance Theatre (now Charlotte Ballet). We danced together for 7 years, growing as partners onstage and off. His famous proposal of marriage in front of an audience of over 1,000 attending the season opener of a triple bill, closing with George Balanchine’s Four Temperaments, was a notch in our artsy belt.

NCDT was a special company. Great friendships were made. It had some of the best colleagues of our careers. All shapes and sizes, and each dancer brought their own uniqueness. This gave texture to the company’s look. Hernan retired from the physical demands of being a professional dancer and joined as the Artistic Director of Carolina Ballet Theatre. That is when Greenville, SC became our new home in 2001.

After the birth my daughter Sofia, I decided to come back to the stage, after landing the cover of “Dance Magazine”. With my husband as my dance coach and director, I danced for a decade better than I ever thought I could. As a more seasoned artist with two children, and two decade run onstage, I also retired, and focused on cultivating the next generation of professional dancers and students.

When folks ask me, what is the mission of your dance school? On paper, I have narrowed it into this mission statement:

“DanceArts Greenville provides training that will nurture both the potential artist and the dance student who studies only for the inherent rewards of self-discipline, physical fitness, and a greater appreciation of movement and music while building self-esteem and improving confidence.”

The warm and fuzzy version, we nurture the heART in dance! Our team understands that we have a responsibility that goes beyond good technique. Of course, we continue to enhance our curriculum and learn best training practices in the industry. But this means nothing to us without an artistic, caring environment that inspires each student to push themselves to their personal best. The art of dance is mind, body and spirit.

Our story continues. Our school grows. We are taking your vision and breaking it into digestible pieces. We are grateful to all our students and families from the past and present.

Many thanks for reading about our story and being a part of it!



Did you know that Anita and Hernan Dance together many times?
Here leading Chautauqua Ballet Company in Raymonda ballet

Raymonda Coda at Chatauqua from Hernan Justo on Vimeo.